We had a family gathering earlier tonight at San Bruno to wish one of ours a fond farewell (who was leaving for grad school).
The celebration took place at Asian Pearl Peninsula in San Bruno. I wasn't sure what to think at first, given the last time about 2 to 3 years ago of a very mediocre dinner at sister restaurant The Kitchen, but also given the fact that I haven't been out eating Cantonese wiht family, I didn't set high expectations.
Bottom line, super solid performance (given a few minor hiccups) and delivery, despite a fully packed house. Who said the economy was in trouble... you couldn't tell (even neighboring Chu Kong was fairly full after walking by).
My uncle brought in two different bottles of Malbec, cheap and really good stuff to accompany the dinner, and while I didn't take pictures or remember the vineyards they came from, they both were met with many smiles (even the floor manager/pit boss who had a sample). I'm not a wine guy, but even I dug this.
The house stewed soup in ceramic pot (very similar offering to what ABC Foster City has) tonight was "Ha Goo Tsoe" (the name of the herb, roughly translates to summer mushroom grass) with at the very least pork bone and perhaps red bean, thick delicious rich and appetizing broth. Supposedly $30 for a serving that fits 4, so I shudder to think what was the actual bill.
The crispy skin ham hock was a much superior preparation compared to the one tried at The Kitchen a few years ago. It tasted just like Hong Kong, although no presence of garlic like the version Anthony Bourdain had at Tung Po in North Point in "No Reservations". Crispy skin on the outside, non fattening, and tender lightly salted meat. Reminds me of a perfect German style Schweinhoxen (like at Schroeder's SF some years ago). A lemon wedge was available but nobody used it. They even included a giant bone in piece of meat, looked like a Chinese buffet style beef rib...
They had the "princess" yellow fur chicken (gwai fei gai). Not terribly meaty, but it was probably the 2nd best preparation next to Silver House San Mateo. Delicious yellow skin, and chewy meat (perhaps too chewy for little kids). The herbal and Chinese wine marination were a bit on the strong side, but a good solid effort. The ginger scallion sauce was decent too. (But still nothing compares to Jui Heung Yuen aka John's BBQ in Toronto/Richmond Hill for their version of the chicken)...
There was a dish that I didn't see on the takeout menu. Basically stir fried lotus root slices with thick snow pea pods, king (abalone) mushrooms, and regular mushrooms. One of the surprises of the evening. Never knew veggies could be done so well. The chef really did great here.
Salted Fish Pork Patty - a pretty decent rendition. On the menu this version is called Toishan style in Chinese. No idea what makes this version Toishan, but it went great with rice. Still not as good as Chef Wai's in San Mateo (RIP), but solid overall
OK who in the family went pork crazy tonight.... someone ordered the steamed pork patty with preserved veg (very mild taste) with eggplant. This was according to the Chinese name, a typical family style / home style dish. Not my bag but perhaps the more hardcore Cantonese folks can appreciate this.
The steamed tofu topped with roast pork and shrimp paste sauce was nothing to write home about, but I appreciated that it was something different and uncommon to most of us (ie something perhaps more specific regional Cantonese). Kudos to that.
Stir fried large pea sprouts with garlic (dai dau miew) - very very good.
Stir fried satay beef with gai lan - tasty, although the beef seemed a bit overly coated with cornstarch and satay sauce, affecting the gai lan as well.
and last but not least, the sleeper homerun of the evening, not on the regular menu but if you go to the right side of the fish tanks, overhead, is a picture and a sign advertising what appeared to be a revival of a very old school homey dish ($16.50) of basically a small whole fish over steamed (w/o salt fish) pork patty. Cantonese name "Ga Soe Jing Boon Been Yue" or "House Daughter In Law [or sister in law] steams half side fish". I didn't get a chance to try the fish, but the pork patty was absolutely perfect and fantastic (which goes to show you don't need chestnuts or salted fish to make this). If only I had my Nikon with me....all this glorious Canto food porn.
House dessert....red bean soup, and even that was done nicely. Not watery, red beans that still stayed a bit firm (and not totally mushy), dried orange peel (chun pei), and best of all a good thick consistency.
Dim sum here must be pretty darn good I would assume.